Ljubodrag Simonović: Dialectics and history


Ljubodrag Simonović
E-mail: comrade@orion.rs
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              Dialectics is an authentic and genuine force for social development, delineated in the laws of dialectics that represent the logic of history and are, therefore, the self-consciousness of the historical development of society. As a method, dialectics is a vehicle for determining, by means of the laws of dialectics, the nature of social phenomena, or more precisely, it is a vehicle for their “transformation” from abstract into concrete historical phenomena. By means of the laws of dialectics, the bare facticity of the past turns into the historical development of society. Within that context, dialectics can be comprehended as the supreme regulating historical principle that opens wide on the horizons of the future: it represents the basis of society’s historicity. By means of dialectics, man emerges from the obscurity of the past and steps into the bright light of history, becoming a self-conscious historical being. Only upon dialectical self-consciousness can man base a position on the world that will enable him to create a future.

          According to Marx, “into the positive comprehension of the existing status, dialectics, at the same time, also introduces understanding of its negation, its necessary downfall; for it comprehends all generated forms in the course of motion, that is,  in its transient aspect; because it cannot be tutored by anything and because it is, in its essence, critically analytical and revolutionary.” This quotation points out the fact that dialectics asserts moving forward, which means that capitalism, as a historical order does not close but opens the space of the future. Indeed, not all downfalls mean, at the same time, a negation. More precisely, a downfall represents not only a possibility for creating something new, but also the opportunity for the destruction of everything that exists. The nature of what is negated conditions the nature of the negation and, therefore, the concrete possibility and the nature of the novum. In order to represent a concrete historical principle, the principle of totality has to take into consideration the specificity of the capitalist totality, and that goes not only for the emancipatory possibilities but also for the destructive potential of capitalism. “The negative dialectics” (Adorno), which means that dialectics as a method of critical changing and as a libertarian practice, has significance solely if it is developing in relation to the process in which capitalism develops into capitalism – turns into a totalitarian destructive order. While criticizing Hegel, and having in mind fascism, Bloch rightfully indicates that not every negation in history concomitantly represents a step forward. However, he does not realize that the capitalist negation does lead toward the destruction of the world. He never refers to capitalism as a destructive order, and, in that context, there is no perception of the possibility of the obliteration of life as a crucial content of the revolutionary conscience. Marx fails to notice that capitalism acts in advance by annihilating life – by generating consequences which question the very possibility of the future and not only in the essential, but also in the existential sense. “Temporariness“ does not imply solely moving forward, but also the development of the destructive processes that threaten the very survival of mankind. This is what Fourier asserted by his claim that mankind was in a state of “material regression” because (capitalist) “progress“ was devastating forests, mountain slopes, natural fountains… Marx fails to notice that capitalism has a destructive potential and overlooks the fact that negation also implies the possibility of its realization, which means that the downfall of capitalism at the same time implies the possibility of the obliteration of life on the planet. Related to this possibility, a concrete possibility arises for attaining man’s creative, libertarian and life-creating abilities. Turning the objective possibilities of freedom into realistic possibilities of man’s liberation stands against the more and more likely probability of the annihilation of the world.

               Hegel’s dialectics implies the likelihood of a future based upon existential certainty.  Life is an a priori quality that is not being questioned, and it represents the foundation of his dialectic pyramid of freedom. With Hegel existential certainty represents the basis for the libertarian optimism (reasonable freedom) upon which faith in the future is founded. Within his thought there is a contradiction between mind and senses, between intellect and nature, subjective and objective…, but not between life and non-life (destruction). Hegel’s “abolition” (Auflösung) and “overcoming” (Aufhebung) imply the existential certainty and the improvement of life based upon it. The dialectic course, as a process by which life becomes life through its own mind-pervading, occurs on an unquestionable existential level. The identity of essence (idea) and of existence (reality) has been determined: “All that is real is reasonable, and all that is reasonable is real“ (Hegel). Reasonable life implies existential certainty, and genuine reality represents full implementation of its own developmental potential. Until it does not realize its own developmental potential, reality does not exist in a concrete sense – it is an abstraction. When reality becomes what it might be, only then does it becomes real in the veritable sense. The dogmatism of Hegel’s dialectics is based upon the assertion that the abstract (non-historical) idea of the phenomenon represents the basis for determination of its concreteness (historicity). In other words, the essence of the phenomenon was determined before it became a concrete historical phenomenon, which is, before its developmental potential was realized, thus creating a new reality with new developmental potential that surmounts the very idea that represents a criterion for determining the genuineness (historicity) of the phenomenon. When matters are perceived in relation to capitalism as a totalitarian destructive order, in Hegel the real does not encompass the destructive potency, and the reasonable does not indicate its destructive intention.

                  In Marx, just like in Hegel, the openness of the future is dominant, implying existential certainty. This represents the basis for his notion of progress:  “in the bosom“ of capitalism possibilities are generated for “leaping from the reign of necessity into the reign of freedom” (Engels). This connotes that capitalism marks the end of “the prehistory of human society” (Marx). Marx does not raise the issue of existence, but that of true history, which means of the society in which man has achieved freedom. In Marx’s concept of the historical development of society, libertarian optimism is dominant, and existential optimism deriving from it.  It is based upon faith in man as a universal creative being of freedom and upon the emancipatory potential of the productive forces. At the same time, within capitalism, the sprout of the new world is being generated, which means that capitalism possesses historical fecundity. The specificity of capitalism as a historically fecund order, in comparison to the preceding historical periods, is that with it ends the prehistory and commences the true history of mankind. Unlike the bourgeois theorists, who perceive capitalism as the completion of history, thus sterilizing its change-creating possibilities, Marx perceives the true values of capitalism in the fact that within it possibilities are generated for a step forward into the new society that will represent the achievement of the supreme humanistic endeavors of mankind. Despite its cessations and sidesteps, capitalism creates the historical time that streams forwards.

              Marx was a dedicated advocate of Hegel’s dialectics of history. He envisaged the specific dialectics of the development of capitalism, or, more precisely, he sacrificed the dialectics of capitalism for the dialectics of pre-capitalist history. The development of capitalism is being perceived through a prism of the dialectics of the previous historical periods and, deriving from this, the issue of its development and temporariness is being raised. The specificity of capitalism, as a concrete socio-economic formation, does not represent an integral part of that history upon which the dialectics of history is derived. Based on Marx’s most significant methodological postulate, that the last actual form in the development of society represents the key for decoding the essence of the preceding forms, there is being imposed a conclusion that the nature of the laws of dialectics cannot be determined by an analysis of pre-capitalist history, but that capitalism, as the most developed historical order, represents the mirror in which the dialectics of history can be discerned. In other words, if history represents the starting place and the confirmation of the veracity of dialectics, then capitalism, as the highest form in the development of society, represents the starting point for the determination of the veracity of dialectics, that is, of the historical nature of social development.
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